News Release

The NATO Charter Is Not a Suicide Pact


On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the Associated Press put out a widely disseminated false story –

– which it later acknowledged “erroneously” reported — that a “senior U.S. intelligence official says Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Hitting NATO territory with missiles. … This is a Russian missile attack on collective security! This is a really significant escalation. Action is needed.” (See “Report: U.S. Told Ukraine to Tread Carefully After Missile Hit Poland” from

“When it comes to our security commitments and Article 5 we’ve been crystal clear that we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters.

This echoed Biden’s declaration while in Poland in March: “We have a sacred obligation under Article 5 to defend each and every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective power.”

Biden’s statement was widely echoed following the AP report as a rallying cry for more war on Tuesday.

Responsible Statecraft in “How a lightly-sourced AP story almost set off World War III” noted that Anders Åslundof the Atlantic Council tweeted: “At long last Russian missiles have hit Poland & killed two Polish citizens. Surprising it did not happen before given the irresponsible Russian behavior. @POTUS: You have promised to defend ‘every inch of NATO territory.’ Are you going to bomb Russia now?” (A CBS News “Breaking News” report featured former ambassador to Poland Daniel Fried, now with the Atlantic Council.)

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted: “Estonia is ready to defend every inch of NATO territory. We’re in full solidarity with our close ally Poland.”

The Latvian Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks tweeted: “Criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on NATO territory in Poland. Latvia fully stands with Polish friends and condemns this crime.”

However, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Wesley Clark stated on CNN: “Article 4 simply calls for consultations. So any NATO member nation can call for consultations and this is an assurance to member NATO nations that they won’t be shut out in a crisis. That if there is something wrong that the other NATO nations will listen to them and evaluate their position and it will be discussed.

“Article 5 is the commitment that an attack on one nation of NATO is viewed as an attack on all. It’s not a commitment to respond by force. It says they’ll respond appropriately. It doesn’t mean you’re going to war. But if it’s an attack, then it falls under Article 5 and NATO will have to determine — what is the appropriate response?” [See video.]

Quigley is professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University. His books include The Ruses for War. Earlier this year, he wrote the piece “I led talks on Donbas and Crimea in the 90s. Here’s how the war should end” for Responsible Statecraft.

He said today that, in contrast to Clark, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg “has not made clear that Article 5 leaves the other members discretion on what to do if one NATO state is attacked.”

Quigley explained: “There is a widespread belief that Article 5 requires NATO to respond militarily to an attack on a NATO country. Article 5 in a sense has no significance. It is only a declaration that the NATO countries plan to act in collective self-defense if any NATO state is attacked. It does not require any particular action in the event of an attack on a NATO member. Each agrees to take whatever action it deems necessary. So it can decide that no action is necessary.

“The other question is what constitutes an armed attack. An incident as minor (despite two deaths) as the one in Poland is probably not an armed attack, even if it was done by Russia and even if intentionally.”

In 2021, Quigley was featured on an IPA news release: “NATO Trying to Use Cyber Attacks to Trigger Article 5.” It noted: “NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently told the Atlantic Council (which is funded by various NATO governments): ‘We have decided that a cyber attack can trigger Article 5. … It doesn’t matter if an attack is kinetic or cyber, we will assess as allies when it meets the threshold. … and it sends a message that we are cyber allies.'” At that time, Quigely noted that in fact, “Article 5 of the NATO Treaty references Article 51 of the UN Charter which provides for collective self defence in the event of ‘armed attack.'”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, David Zupan,

November 21, 2022